SULLIVAN: Election results change perspective on pipeline

Of all the surprises coming out of Monday’s federal foofaraw, one is relatively easy to overlook.

Unless you live here.

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Despite the best hopes of the other guys, the North Shore remains Liberal from Burrard Inlet to Howe Sound.

Even the raw rookie on the team was successful: Taking over from retiring West Van MP Pam Goldsmith-Jones, newbie Patrick Weiler joins incumbents Jonathan Wilkinson and Terry Beech at the terminal end of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

About that pipeline. ...

You could come to the conclusion that by re-electing a mess of Liberals to represent the North Shore, the people have spoken. And the people say: bring on the pipeline.

After all, the Liberals spent $4.5 billion to acquire the pipeline on behalf of the people; you can’t believe they’ll abandon the project.

I could argue that if the voters of Burnaby North-Seymour really didn’t want an expanded pipeline in their backyard, all they needed to do was elect the redoubtable Svend Robinson, step aside, and let the nation’s primo pipeline opponent do his thing.

As it was, they came pretty close to doing exactly that. As I write, Beech bested Robinson by a mere 1,000 votes. That doesn’t mean Robinson will get out of the way and go home, but he won’t be representing the pipeline riding in Parliament. That’s a giant sigh of relief you hear coming from the other side of the mountains, a.k.a. pipeline country, a.k.a. Alberta.

Writing in the Calgary Herald on post-election Tuesday, Don Braid, the op-ed sage of Alberta, argued that Justin Trudeau’s chastened now-minority government simply has to make good its promise to build the pipeline, because 68 per cent of the population voted for it, as opposed to the 30 per cent who voted against it.

Braid may be guilty of wish-fulfilment math: he merely put the combined popular vote for the Liberals and Conservatives against that of the pipeline-hating Bloc, NDP and Greens. Tricky – but true? Many argue that the NDP, as the party holding the balance of power, will make killing the pipeline project the price for keeping the Liberal minority in power. But Braid argues that if the Conservatives support the Liberals on anything, it will be to vote down any anti-pipeline initiatives in Parliament, swatting away the NDP on this issue at least.

North Vancouver’s Wilkinson, who was the fisheries minister at dissolution, is perhaps the foremost articulator (Ed: is that a word?) of the Liberal pipeline policy. If I have it right, the pipeline is the time machine to the new millennium. Getting oil sands product to offshore markets reaps hundreds of millions that can be spent on developing clean energy (along with thousands of jobs), ultimately arming us to fight climate change.

I know. I’m still struggling with the idea that shipping dirty oil across the Rockies then loading it onto tankers on the relatively pristine waters of Burrard Inlet is green and clean. But it’s convincing when Jonathan lays it out. You have to be there.

Meanwhile, from what I can tell, newly minted West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country MP Weiler, who’s described as an environmental and natural resource management lawyer, goes along with the company line on this one.

There are, of course, other issues, but you wouldn’t know it. The Trans Mountain pipeline scheme was the keystone of the brave Liberal attempt to hold the country together before the election. It was designed when Rachel Notley was NDP (!) premier of Alberta. It was the ultimate quid pro quo:

Trudeau: “We’ll build your pipeline if you support our carbon tax.…”

Notley:  Silence in defeat.

Jason Kenney (new Alberta premier): “Fie on your carbon tax.” (He said something other than “Fie,” but this is a family newspaper.)

So, despite the disdain radiating from the “West” ( I love it when they call the Prairies the “West”), and the fierce opposition from Svend and company, it looks as if the Liberals will build the damn pipeline anyway, once all the court challenges have been eliminated.

Who knows? Maybe the solemn pledges of Safety First may turn out to be true and the pipeline and our beautiful coastline will coexist for decades to come, generate all those dirty/clean millions and save the world from climate change.

It’s not as if we’ve never been surprised.

p.sullivan@breakthroughpr.com

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